How lean are you? Part 5

The previous posts described approaches for Lean assessment and leanness measurement with their strengths and weaknesses. Yet for self-assessment or when trying to get a feeling about a supplier, such in-depth analyses are not necessary.

The next series of posts starting with this one deals with qualitative approaches of a Lean assessment.

Starting with top management

In his e-letter dating back to April 2004 and having this inspiring title: how lean are you? Dan Jones starts his answer like this: “not by looking over your shoulder at your competitors or by counting the number of Kaizen events you have run”.

That means, do not wait for benchmarking and don’t be fooled by misleading indicators.

Instead ask yourselves seven basic questions.” Those questions are about 7 topics:

  1. Customer satisfaction
  2. Throughput time and inventories
  3. Production and scheduling
  4. Office processes, overheads and direct costs
  5. Use of freed up time, equipment and space
  6. Management systems for a lean transformation
  7. Plans to deliver the next generation product with enhanced functionality at 30% lower costs than current product?

I strongly recommend to read this e-letter (and all others as well!)

These questions and topics are typically those a Lean-aware visitor or auditor may ask when visiting a supplier or a Lean consultant when first touring the gemba with top managers. These are also typical questions any top manager should ask himself when paying a visit to the shop floor.

Question #1 reminds that all should be about customer, questions #2 and #3 are about operations, questions #4 to 6 are about management and #7 is about the future.

These questions may not suffice for an assessment but give clues about Lean awareness and state of mind of the top management. They could be asked in form of why? what? and how?

Bottom-up lean initiatives are less likely to succeed than top-down, the latter having management’s full support and usually linked to strategic objectives. Therefore, starting an interview with the top most manager gives valuable information about maturity and readiness to support Lean transformation.

Failing to answer convincingly questions 1;4;5;6 and 7 is no good omen and in case of supplier qualification may end the process fast, with a nogo.

>Next post: How lean are you? Part 6

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